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Mega-Peripheries and Cairo’s New Administrative Capital: Contradictions of Squatting and Unsettled Livelihoods around the New Urban Future
The massive urbanization of Cairo’s periphery proceeds by the re-production of power relationships and new dispatches of globalized conundrums that contradict realities on the ground for what constitutes urban life at the periphery. The New Administrative Capital mobilizes resources, financial debts and infrastructure from China, Emirates and Saudi investments with the conviction that the city will lead a role in Africa’s and Middle East’s near future. However, ordinary citizens previously inhabiting the nearby haunted settlements around the location of the new capital feel obliged to engage with a new arrangement of urban livelihood where the everyday reality surpasses reason. In such conditions of vulnerability --crushed at the middle, people opt to develop surviving practices to stay afloat, retool the spaces enforced on them and remake whatever possibilities out of this situation. Based on fieldwork during 2021 and 2022, and semi-structured interviews for the desert’s inhabitants around the new capital -- yet to become, the paper investigates the desert’s surroundings as a new space of urbanized operations rather than a dislocated peripheral edge of prestige, power and state. Here, it is a mega-space of peripheral centrality. It is not a (sub) of an urban that is subsumed to some sort of a center, or a prefix to an urban structure, where the edge is secondary and a sub to the original, always described as an adverb to already existing urban processes, a mere extension to ongoing urbanization. On the opposite, the desert periphery refuses to be an urban mirror of organized, controlled and state-led planning of gated communities and engineered social housing. The desert edge provokes a condition of cityness that is neither urban or suburban, planned or unplanned, utopia or dystopia; it is dynamically evolving with the assembling of pieces that do not come together in normative conditions. As such, the paper poses the surrounds as a spatial scaffolding for new modes of possibilities and ways of inhabitation, where agency plays a vital role in the assemblage of new urban life. Scaffolding at the haunted desert settlements is represented in two senses: firstly, movable platforms made of bits and pieces assembled and aggregated in non-aesthetic configuration with the objective of facilitating workers and people to function, operate and perform, and secondly, temporality where scaffolds are signs of time and politics of waiting in anticipation of a new betterment of life as a result of the New Administrative Capital.
Architecture & Urban Planning
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area